Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Well hello there, sorry to have been such a stranger.

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, here (sort of), or now Google+, then you know that I have been a little stumped on my writing since finally finishing the second draft of my Typewriter Challenge story (tentatively titled "That Type of Adventure").

Last week I saw Cindy Schuerr post on Facebook about her entry in Clever Fiction's Weekly Challenge. The weekly challenge is sort of an Iron Chef for writers where you are given three concepts and have to write a flash piece using all of them.

Let me say that I suck at writing flash pieces. I'm not exactly as long-winded as Stephen King, but keeping it under 1000 words is not easy for me. Still, I took the challenge because I need to get writing, and keep writing, and I haven't been lately.

Last week's prompt was rain, sailboat, and shame, and while i struggled with this for a bit, finally inspiration came (although due to the limited space, the first image that came into my head was completely cut from the story) and I was off writing.

As I said, I am rather long winded, and the first draft came out to almost double the limit, so the next couple of days were spent cutting out anything that was not 100% vital to the story, and the result was "Adrift" a story set in the early days of the zombie apocalypse that served as the setting for "Mallville: A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse".

This week's entry, called "Family Supper" (which is not a zombie story, sorry), was a little easier as a result of the practice that last week served as, but I still spent a couple of days trimming and rewriting it down to the sub-1000 word mark.

As far as "Adrift" goes, there is a longer story there, and I have already started working on it, although if I do not finish it this month, it will be put on hold during November during NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and I have no idea what I'll be doing for NaNoWriMo yet, which is disturbing me a little.

Remember, don't trust the darkness. See you next time.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Do you ever get the feeling that something is going well over your head, but you can't quite figure out what it is? That is how I feel after watching the new film from director Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive”, based on the novel by James Sallis. This movie is getting fantastic reviews, it even won Best Director at Cannes, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why.

“Drive” is the story of, unsurprisingly, a driver (Ryan Gosling: “Crazy, Stupid, Love”), who, when he is not acting as a wheelman-for-hire, is a mechanic and a movie stunt driver. He's developed a bit of a crush on his next door neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”), whose ex-convict husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac: “Sucker Punch”), owes a great deal of protection money to some reputable businessmen.

In the interest of protecting Irene and her son, the Driver agrees to help Standard with a robbery that will put him even with his creditors. So along with a woman named Blanche (Christina Hendricks: “Mad Men”), they set out to do what should be a basic, low-level robbery. Naturally things go spectacularly wrong.

This sounds like an exciting film, right? Check out the trailer, it even looks exciting. It looks like it could be a heist movie, or perhaps a roaring rampage of revenge; hell, at the beginning it even seems like it is going to similar to “The Transporter”, but it's not. In fact, despite being called “Drive” very little driving actually goes on in it. A better title would probably have been “Awkward Silence”.

The movie tends to go like this. Dialog, awkward silence, more dialog, awkward silence, something exciting happens, awkward silence. I think that if you were to edit out all of the awkward silence, most of which is just Ryan Gosling staring off into space, you would be left with thirty, maybe forty minutes of movie. There were points early on in the film where I was seriously wondering if Gosling's character was trying to be broody, or if he was just slow-witted. Some of these awkward pauses went on so long that people in the audience started laughing at them.

Of course it wasn't just the silences that elicited laughter from the audience; by the end of the film the close-ups Driver's golden jacket with its embroidered scorpion started getting chuckles as well. Plus it's never a good sign when people are laughing at what seemed like they were supposed to be highly dramatic moments in the film too (the scene in the elevator in the trailer got the biggest laugh of the entire film).

Am I being a bit harsh? Well it may be justified, as this is the first screening I have attended in the three years I have been going to them where people actually got up and walked out. So if something in this film is going over my head, then it's going over the heads of a lot of other non-professional critics as well. There are moments where I can see the director's skill (the use of lighting in the elevator scene stood out for me), but a lot of the time I was left thinking “well, maybe this would make more sense if I had read the book first”.

It's not all bad though, as there are some shining moments in the film. These moments pretty much all involve Nino (Ron Perlman: “Hellboy”) and Bernie (Albert Brooks: “Lost in America”, “Defending Your Life”) as a pair of mobsters who are helping to finance the Driver's potential career as a race car driver (did I forget to mention the race car driver thing? Well, don't worry, it's not important).

Perlman is unfortunately only in a few scenes, but probably half of the swearing in the film comes from him. The role of a Jewish, pizzeria running mobster is not a perfect fit for him, but Nino is a joy to watch. Not only does it seem quite the rarity to even see him without some sort of make-up on, but I can't really recall him having many rolls where he even gets to curse.

As fun as Perlman is, the show-stealer has to be Albert Brooks. His scenes drop almost all of the awkward silence and replace it with sarcastic humor and violence. I don't think I have ever seen Brooks play anything as cold-blooded as Bernie Rose before, and I wish the movie had been more about him, and less about the Driver, because all of his scenes were genuinely interesting and entertaining.

At the risk of seeming like an unsophisticated plebeian for not liking what is clearly being regarded as some sort of masterpiece, I have to say that I did not like this film. It's not as if I don't enjoy the occasional deep, and possibly even slow film (I genuinely liked both “The Box” and “Blindness”), but this was just boring. It's slow, uneventful, and when something does happen it is over too fast, and we're back to awkward silences again. The trailer really does show off all of the film's best content, and sorry ladies, but Gosling doesn't even take off his shirt for you.

If you want to see an award winning film whose vision outstretches its grasp, and is chocked full of long, dramatic, awkward silence, then check this movie out. If you want to see an awesome action film about a driver, go rent “The Transporter”

“Drive” is in theaters now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Crazy, Stupid, Love

In a summer full of wizards, robots, aliens, and superheroes, Hollywood knows that some people **cough**women**cough** want something a little softer, a little funnier, a little more romantic. Well, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is that movie... more or less. To be more exact it is another of the recent string of RomComs that are focusing more on the comedy than the romance, and this is very much to the film's benefit.

Lets see if I can briefly explain the relationships between the major players here. Cal (Steve Carell: “The Office”) and Emily (Julianne Moore: ”Blindness”) are a longtime married couple. Cal thinks things are fine until Emily reaveals that she has been having an affair with David (Kevin Bacon: “Stir of Echoes”), and wants a divorce. Cal is stunned, but it's not as if he's unloved as, unbeknownst to him, the babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) is in love with him. Unfortunately she's seventeen, and Cal and Emily's son., Robbie (Jonah Bobo: “Zathura”) is in love with her.

While wallowing in his sorrows, Cal meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling: “Blue Valentine”), a true player who takes pity on Cal, and decides to help him become more of a ladies man (or at least more of a man). Jacob is the very picture of confidence and swagger, seemingly able to get any woman he sets his sights on; any woman that is except Hannah (Emma Stone: ”Zombieland”, ”Easy A”), a young law student whose plans revolve around marrying her boyfriend, Richard (singer, Josh Groban).

Does all of that make sense? I hope so, because it actually gets a little more confusing as the film progresses.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a RomCom seemingly made with the knowledge that women are going to drag their men to these things anyway, so lets make them appeal to both genders. In fact so much time is spent in the film focusing on the interaction between Carell's awkward, middle-aged office drone and Gosling's slick, shallow player that this may all actually appeal a little bit more to men than women. Only a little though.

With a great cast and mostly good pacing, there's really only one big criticism I have about this film: The length. It's not so much that the film is about two hours long that is the problem, but that it climaxes (as far as the laughes go at least) a good thirty minutes before it ends. The last quarter of the film focuses on the more traditional feelings and relationships that one would expect from your average RomCom, and while this may appeal greatly to the core audience films like this target, for me this really took a lot of wind out of the picture's sails. This long eplilogue, with its confessions of love, and the moral of the story, drops what was a really good comedy up to that point down to just a, above average romantic comedy.

Not a great film, but as romantic comedies go this one is a little refreshing in that it will be easy for men to watch, and it does not go out of its way to portray Steve Carell's character as the bad guy in the situation, which is nice. It may not have superheroes or wizards, but what “Crazy, Stupid, Love” does have is a strong cast, a solid, emotional story for the stereotypical RomCom fan, and enough big laughs to keep everyone else from rolling their eyes too much.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is in theaters now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friends With Benefits

When I first saw the trailer for the new film “Friends with Benefits” I could help but think, “Haven't I see this movie already? It came out back in January and was called 'No Strings Attached' , and it was a confused mess.” That's right, two movies in the same year with the same sex-without-emotional-attachment concept both starring members of the cast of “That 70's Show”. “But hey,” I thought, “At least it will be fun to write a bad review of it.” Of course what I didn't know is that it was directed by Will Gluck (“Easy A”); had I known that I might have gone in with higher expectations.

Mila Kunis (“The Book of Eli”) plays Jamie, a corporate recruiter who is trying to lure Dylan (Justin Timberlake: “The Social Network”) to New York to interview for a position with GQ magazine. She manages to win him over, and he trades his Los Angeles life for a new home in New York.

Of course the only person that Dylan knows in New York, aside from his new employees, is Jamie, and seeing as neither of them have much luck with dating due to their various personality issues they begin to hang out regularly. After a night of drinking and watching a hilariously bad romantic comedy (starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones from ”I Love You, Man”) the discussion turns to sex as an activity instead of as an expression of emotion. The discussion quickly turns to an action, and the pair's emotion-free relationship begins.

“Friends With Benefits” wants to be to romantic comedies what the original “Scream” was to horror films; it completely takes the piss out of the genre while still being faithful to it. “No Strings Attached” sort of tried to do this by including ever RomCom trope ever into one film, and it ended up being a complete mess of a film, but this movie finds its focus and sticks with it. There are no zany best friends in this film, no beta couple, no jerkass trying to steal the heart of one of the main couple; it's just two people trying to be best friends who just happen to have sex with each other... a lot.

Of course the lack of wacky best friends and beta couples doesn't mean there is no supporting cast; there's a very strong one in fact. Through the course of the film we get to meet Jamie's mother (Patricia Clarkson: “Easy A”, Dylan's father (Richard Jenkins : “Six Feet Under”, “Hall Pass”), sister (Jenna Elfman: “Dharma and Greg), and nephew (Nolan Gould: “Modern Family”). Of course it would'nt be right to not mention who might be the funniest actor in the entire film: Woody Harrelson (”Zombieland”) as Tommy, GQ's manic sports editor.

There are also a lot of really fun cameos sprinkled throughout the film. Aside from Jason Segal and Rashida Jones, keep an eye our for appearances by Masi Oka (“Heroes”), Andy Samberg (”I Love You, Man”), Emma Stone (”Zombieland”, “Easy A”), and a very unusual appearance by Olympic athlete Shaun White.

While this movie is not ultimately as good as “Easy A”, it does manage to keep some of the fast-paced humour, as well as a loving willingness to mock its own genre. The movie's only real weakness is when they try to cram some conflict into the film. Even this stuff is entertaining, but it does not feel particularly natural, and it has a negative effect on the quality of the story.

At 109 minutes, “Friends With Benefits” is probably longer than it should be, but chances are that you'll be enjoying it enough to not notice. Its a fast, funny, crude movie that eschews Easy A's walking of the PG-13 boundaries for full-on R rated language and even a bit of nudity (and not all of it Justin Timberlake's arse). What it's not however is a must see. Compared to “No Strings Attached” it's an absolute masterpiece, but taken on its own it's nothing to get too excited about. I don't suggest paying full theater dollars for this, but it is certainly worth giving a rent.

“Friends With Benefits” is in theaters now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If You're Going to Complain

If you are from California then you probably are aware of our current budgetary issues. Governor Brown did exactly what he said he was going to do: pass a “balanced” budget (there is plenty of debate on just how balanced it is, but it's certainly the closest we've come in a long, long time). Unfortunately he could only do this by deeply cutting a lot of things that effect all of us since he was not allowed to do much of anything to increase state revenue.

As a result of this “austere” budget, we are facing cuts to our police, fire departments, schools, courts, the DMV, schools, universities, etc are all facing severe budget cuts which mean, in the case of universities, increased fees, and in the case of pretty much everything else a cut in services and lay-offs. These changes are not something the public at large is finding pleasant, and the fact of the matter is that it's going to get a whole lot worse.

I'm not writing to talk about the budget cuts per say, nor about who I hold responsible (although if you want to know, I think the issue is that we need to increase revenue, so you can probably guess who I give the lion's share of the responsibility to); instead I want to talk about the public's reaction to this.

Everyday the news has stories now about people whinging about these cuts and tuition increases, at least they do when they can find space between talking about Jaycee Dugard, that Anthony woman (Guilty? Innocent? I don't care), and the recent royal visit. They show footage of protests at universities, upset members of the community who don't like fire station brown outs, or police cuts, and of course there's always teachers ready to yell for the cameras.

No protestors to show? Well, the news has a back-up plan when this happens. When there are no indignant members of the public to show, they simply focus on how much the heads of various agencies make. The head of one of the State Universities makes four-hundred thousand a year? Yeah, that's a lot, probably too much, but do you know what the effect of cutting his pay would be on the tuition of individual students? No, neither do I, but I know it's not going to be more than a few dollars, which is to say that it's only a drop in the bucket.

Now I'm not saying that drops in the bucket don't count, enough drops can eventually fill a bucket, but that if you, my fellow Californians, wish to complain, at least complain to the right people. Who are those people you ask? The legislators. You know, the folks who actually passed the budget. The folks who were not willing to compromise at all. The folks who had the opportunity to at least let us vote on continuing already existing taxes, but would not. The folks who are more interested in trying to make their political opponents look bad than they are in doing what is best for their constituents. The folks we voted for!

In the interest in full disclosure, I am a government employee, and my agency has been heavily hit by these cuts. Even our agency head (who is undoubtedly overpaid, but even if he worked for free it would not fill the budget hole) has said that layoffs are likely, so now we get to wait and see what comes of discussions between the agency and the union (both of whom still seem more interested in making the other look like the bad guy than anything else) to see if I, and a lot of my co-workers, get to keep our jobs.

Still, I'm not writing this to get your pity (although if you have an opening for a smartarse writer, let me know), I've just grown very tired of seeing the news completely miss the point about what the real problem is. It's not unions, it's not overpaid management (they are a problem, but at this point it's like complaining about a leaky faucet while the stove is on fire), and it's certainly not the workers. It's the people who control the money, so stop protesting against the wrong people, and let your elected officials know that you are not happy, and what you are willing to do about it. Are you happy with reduced police protection, longer lines at the DMV, the courts, and wherever else you may wait in line? Then let them know you're cool with it. Are you willing to pay a little more in taxes to continue receiving the services you're used to? Let them know that. It may not ultimately do any good, but at least you'll be bitching out the right people.

Of course this wouldn't be a ramble if I did not put something completely off-topic into it, and that usual off-topic thing is my writing. I am still in process of working on a second draft of the Typewriter Challenge story.

Yes, that would be the story I intended to finish the second draft of back in May, but I am not finished with the first half of the climax, so there's only about ten pages to go, then I just need to come up with a better title. I am happier about the final conflict in this version, as I totally had the scale of the scene off originally (and I was not about to retype four pages to fix it at that point). As for the title, it is currently called “That Type of Adventure”, but I really want to come up with something better.

Finally, for now anyway, it's state fair time here in California, and the weather was really nice for the start of it this year. I may or may not do a proper blog post about it later, but I do have a growing collection of pictures from it on both my Facebook and my Google+ if you are interested.

I guess that's about it for now. Remember to tell your friends to read “Mallville”, as it's still up there in all of its first draft gloryt, and until we talk again: don't trust the darkness.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Walking Dead 83 and 84 **SPOILERS**

It's been a while since my last ramble, and I'm sure you're totally interested to know what I've been up to, if not, feel free to skip ahead a bit to see some spoilery rambling about “The Walking Dead”.

I have actually been working on more rambling, there are a couple of half-finished rants that just kind of got away from me. Maybe I'll finish them, maybe not. Since this is really just about me writing every day, whether it's fiction or not, it doesn't totally matter if these ever actually get posted.

That's not to say I have not been writing fiction. While I haven't done any recent work on the Mallville re-write (sorry), I have finished my #TypewriterChallenge story. What was supposed to be a little ten page fantasy story ended up being a seventy-four page novelette. Oops.

I am actually quite happy with the first draft of it; it's probably a PG-13 rating (there's one F-bomb, but you can usually get away with one), and short of having the scale of the climax completely change halfway through the scene, it came out quite well. My goal is to get it completely re-written onto the computer by this time next week. What does this mean for you? Nothing really. I still have no idea who I can submit something like it to. It's far too long for any of the podcasts I would love to hear my name on, and I really don't know who else to submit it to.

I know, I know, that's what Google's for.

Of course there's always the Amazon route; might sell a copy or two, who knows?

Anyway, my writing situation is not what this ramble is about, so lets get on to the meat... if a ramble can be said to actually have meat.

It's no secret to anyone who pays any attention to me online that I love zombies; I wrote and posted an entire novel about them after all. It's also not much of a secret that I love “The Walking Dead”, and that goes for both the book and the TV show, but to give you an idea of how much I like TWD, let me elaborate.

When I was working on “Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse” I took a break from zombie fiction. There were a few exceptions here and there (I did watch “Diary of the Dead” and “Zombieland” during this time, and play a little “Left 4 Dead”, but those are infecteds, not really zombies), but for the most part I did not read zombie books or go out of my way to see zombie movies. The reason I did this was because I did not want to accidentally steal something from another work without realizing it, and because I did not want to see something I had written, or planned on writing, used by someone else (It annoyed me to no end when I watched “Dead & Breakfast” later on and discovered it took place in a town called Lovelock), which might discourage me from leaving it in the story.

There was one absolute exception to this undead fast however, and that was “The Walking Dead”. I've read a number of zombie based comics over the years including the fairly hit or miss “Zombie World”, the routinely awful on-again, off-again “Night of the Living Dead” (and it's weird little off-shoots and re-boots), and “Marvel Zombies” which has gone downhill sharply after the end of the “Army of Darkness” crossover, but TWD is easily the best. I usually read my comics in alphabetical order, but TWD always goes to the top of the stack, and I was not about to let myself get a year or two behind on it just because I was afraid of copying it (and to my credit, I don't think I did copy any of it)

So we're clear on one point now, and that's that I like TWD. I am however fairly unreliable about picking up my saver at the comic shop on a regular basis, so it may sometimes have two or three months worth of books in it, but as I said, TWD always goes right to the top of the stack.

Last Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, so, Osaka in tow (so we can get more of the free books), I went to A-1 bright and early Saturday morning and picked up my two and a half months of comics (I am grateful that they allow me to go so long between pick-ups). In it were issues 83 and 84 of TWD.

Before I continue, I want to make sure that you understand that I am going to be dropping some heavy ***spoilers*** for these two issues here, so if you are not current on this series, then go read them, and then come back and read this. Really, I think if I had known what was going to happen I would not have had the same reaction to it.

Osaka wanted to get a coffee (well, I get the coffee, she gets a chai or a vaguely coffee-flavoured sugarbomb), so we went over to It's A Grind, and I read TWD while she read her foody mystery.

Last week, or maybe it was the week before, The Geek Savants talked briefly about issue 83, but without giving much of anything away. Given Rick's final line in issue 82, I figured the surprise with the events of 83 were going to be about Rick doing something cold-blooded to save his son.

Further evidence of this to me is whhat happens when Rick and Carl try to make a run for it through the zombie horde with Jessie and her son, Ron, using the old smear-yourself-in-zombie-guts trick. Unfortunately Ron pisses himself in fear (and hey, who can blame him?), and this smell is seemingly enough to get the zeds' attention.

With Ron a goner, Rick tells Jessie to leave him (after all, he is technically someone else's kid to Rick), but of course she won't. Rick will gladly leave her to die too, but she's holding Carl's hand. Rick fixes this with a quick swing of his trusty hatchet. Cold, yeah? That's not the shocking bit though (although it is fun to note that Rick is now directly responsible for that entire family's death)

Douglas, too much of a coward to take his own life, starts taking potshots at the zombies with a handgun. You can't really call what he is doing aiming so much as just committing suicide by zombie while Rick yells for him to stop firing the gun (it attracts more zeds). It's when the shooting stops that the shocking bit occurs.

So I flip the page and am greeted by a two page spread of Carl's face... with a large chunk of it missing thanks to a shot from Douglas' gun. This is where my jaw drops, and I sit there for a minute just staring at these two pages.

It has been a while since Kirkman has managed to shock me with something in TWD. The last time was the colour back-up in issue 75 (you know, the bit with the superheroes and aliens), although that really doesn't count. The last time he shocked me in continuity was at the end of the Made to Suffer storyline where Lori and Judith (along with half the book's cast) die.

Kirkman's willingness to kill and maim his characters has always impressed me. He never seems to be afraid to do something to even the most central of characters (just look at Rick's stump), but I always thought that Carl was safe as long as the series wasn't ending. Of course Kirkman has stated before that no one is safe, and this is just him proving it once again.

Naturally I went right on and read 84, in which some of the sting of Carl's injury is dulled by the fact that he is apparently going to survive it, but you only get that confirmation after an awesome fight between Rick, Michonne, and the zombie horde (although they do get more help as the fight continues). Of course this battle ends in another nice, if not jaw-dropping, two page spread.

As usually happens whenever a TWD storyline ends in the deaths of a lot of characters (although not on the level of “Made to Suffer”), things start to be set up for the next story, but it is a little different this time. Normally the end of a storyline results in the remaining survivors running to find a new illusion of safety somewhere else, meeting new zombie fodder... er, survivors, and starting the whole cycle over again, but that's not what I read into this.

See, for once Rick has realized that if they really do work together, they can stand against the zeds. The plan sounds like it is going to revolve around getting things back to the way they were, but with a big difference. This time, instead of trying to pretend the world hasn't ended, Rick wants to train everyone to fight. This is a big change for the series; it seems like Rick really wants to make a stand and stake a claim this time.

Of course it will all end in tears, but if you've been reading this series for any length in time.

I'm not only keen to see how Rick tries to organize the community, especially after he very visibly tried to abandon all of them, and left Jessie and Ron to the roamers. I am also interested to see what is left of Carl. Will he still be himself, just with part of his face missing? Will he be a vegetable, little more than a mindless zombie himself? I don't know, but what I do know is that it will be interesting, heart-breaking, and read by me.

That's quite enough rambling for now; this is a lot longer than it should be.

Until you hear from me again, don't trust the darkness.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Something Borrowed

At first, “Something Borrowed”, based on the novel by Emily Giffin, seems like it is just going to be another run of the mill romantic comedy. Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin: “Big Love”) has a crush on Dex (Colin Egglesfield: “All My Children”), a guy she went to law school with, but she has never told him how she feels because she doesn't believe that he could ever feel that way about somone quiet and mousey like her, but that's not the problem. You see, Dex is engaged to Rachel's lifelong best friend, Darcy (Kate Hudson: “Bride Wars”), whom she introduced him to in the first place, but that's not the real problem either.

The problem is, that on the night of her thirtieth birthday, Rachel confesses her feelings to Dex, expecting him to just laugh it off, but he doesn't. In fact, he admits that he had the same feelings about her, but thought that it was she who was not interested. So now, with only months until Darcy and Dex are due to get married, he and Rachel must figure out what exists between them while keeping the whole thing a secret from Darcy.

To further complicate things, Darcy keeps trying to pair Rachel up with Dex's neanderthal, manchild of a friend, Marcus (Steve Howey: “Stan Helsing”), who seems to be willing to sleep with anything with a pair of breasts. Then there's Ethan (John Krasinski: “The Office”), who is a mutual friend of Darcy and Rachel, and seems to be almost the personification of Rachel's conscience when he's not busy trying to hide from Claire (Ashley Williams: “Good Morning, Miami”), a woman obsessed with him after a poorly thought out one night stand.

Now what makes this a unique RomCom to me is that fact that the audience is expected to root for a protagonist who is attempting to steal her best friend's fiance. It's not just Rachel who is a bad person though, it's everyone. Darcy is an alcoholic attention-whore, Dex is seriously considering dumping his fiance for Rachel, Marcus is just a sleazeball, and Ethan won't be honest with Claire about his lack of interest in her. If anything, the only character who's not scummy in this film is Claire, who may be a bit of an overbearing nutter, but at least she's honest in her dealings with the other characters.

It's not just the scumminess of the characters that set this film apart from other films in the genre though, it's the attention given to minor characters. Marcus and Ethan, both of whom seem like they should just be minor characters are actually very well fleshed out. I was especially susprised to see Marcus get a couple of scenes where he is allowed to be a little bit more than just a horndog; it's nice to see a character that could easily have been two-dimensional get to be a little genuine, even if it is in a slimey sort of way.

The person who steals a lot of scenes though is Ethan. When he's not busy trying to hide from Claire, or be Jiminy Cricket to Rachel's Pinnochio, he gets to be Captain Snarker. A lot of the movie's funniest lines are delivered by him, as he seems to almost act as a vocalization for whatever is going on in Rachel's mind. Basically amp up Krasinski's character on “The Office” a couple of notches, and you will have a fairly good idea of who Ethan is.

Of course all this time spent on minor characters pads the movie out a bit, and by a bit I mean a lot. The film is almost two hours long, which is a bit much for a pretty light chick flick like this. Usually when a movie is this long, I can think of scenes I would cut out, but that's not the case this time; everything is either too funny to cut, or it's actually important to the plot. In the interest of full disclosure, the screening I attended was not air conditioned, and by the film's end it had to be around ninety degrees in there, so that may have influenced my issues with the length a little.

All in all, this is a fun film, and it stays surprisingly light despite its subject matter, but I could not help but feel a little oogy cheering on a homewrecker. Yes, the film goes out of its way to make Darcy as unlikable as possible without actually making her hateful, but what Rachel and Dex are doing cannot help but feel immoral to me. I still liked their characters, but this is definitely a film where there are no black hats or white hats, just lots and lots of gray hats.

Even though “Something Borrowed” is almost certainly going to get crushed under the heel of “Thor” at the box office, it is a nice alternative for people not into the mullet-wearing hammer-wielder, and you could certainly find a worse alternative out there. If you like your girly RomCom characters to have the morality of the guys from “The Hangover”, and you want a movie that has a number of genuinely funny moments then I would definitely recommend that you check out “Something Borrowed”, just maybe don't take your best friend with you.

“Something Borrowed” will steal your boyfriend in theaters Friday, May 6th.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


If there's one thing you can count on from local television news, it's making mountains out of molehills. Sacramento seems really good at this, but I'm sure that it must happen everywhere, right? Please say I'm right.

The latest molehill is this video made by some local teens in Rocklin. It didn't make me laugh out loud, but I did find it amusing.

It is of course a spoof of “Call of Duty: Black Ops”, but what they are making a mountain out of it for is that it was recorded at their high school. Here's the story from News 10, a station that I watch because they usually don't go for this sort of crap:

What was that that Liz said? Yup, that's right, the “C” word; Columbine! And look, this story aired a week before the anniversary of said tragedy, although I'm sure that's just a coincidence. Lets see if they find some way of running something about this again tomorrow.

Anyway, thank you Liz for being the stereotypical out-of-touch adult. To be fair, I'm sure the reporter did not give you the context of the video they showed you (and I doubt they showed you all seven minutes of it), because they certainly misrepresented it in the story. I got the feeling like they were trying to represent this as something more than a funny video produced by creative teens who actually put down the controllers for a few hours and went and did something else... even if that something else was still video game related.

Of course it doesn't help me think that Channel 10 was not trying to deceive me as to what the video is about by repeatedly showing the headshot clips from 3:40 and 5:20 during the promos and intro to the story. I don't expect intellectual honesty from the media anymore, but I do... well, did, hold Channel 10 at a higher standard than the other local stations (Fox 40 and CBS 13, I'm looking at you here). Why was I still able to be disillusioned by News 10? Well, unlike some other stations they don't generally do news-free newscasts (I watched in amazement one time as another local station managed to do twenty minutes of broadcast without actually covering any news), and while they may get silly sometimes, and they may obsess, like every other station, about the fragging Kings, they seemed like they treated the news with a little respect.

I guess this explains why they stopped running the ads saying that they don't do sensationalism.

Come on, News 10, you're better than this. A Youtube video of students making a parody of a video game is never news, and asking the school if they new about it while it was being filmed is just stupid. If you notice in the vid, even the little slivers of it shown in the news story, they are not holding any weapons; their hands are empty, and all of the sound and visual effects are added later on computer. If you saw a kid in a sombrero running around while being video taped, would you automatically think “OMG, they're making a school shooting video!”? I certainly hope not.

Ugh, okay, that's enough for now. Until you hear from me again, don't trust the darkness.

I think I like that one.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pick Three

A few weeks back, a listener asked the hosts of “The Weekly Geek” what their three favourite albums were. This is of course not a question a person can just answer off the top of their heads, and indeed may just be impossible to answer. Can you pick your three favourite albums of all time? I have trouble even picking my ten favourite winter movies.

What the hosts ended up doing were picking the three albums they would want to expose to a stranger to. This stuck in my rather cluttered mind, and has now come back with answers. The three albums I would suggest that you listen to are:

No More Kings (2007)

While there is a lot of great stuff on their second album, “And the Flying Boombox:”, No More Kings' first album is still my favourite. From the zombie-ness of “Zombie Me” to the love letter to “Knight Rider” that is “Michael (Jump In)”, their original album is just fun, and cheerful, and listening to it never fails to make me smile (the same can be said for “And the Flying Boombox” as well).

I originally discovered No More Kings through Pandora. I listen to Pandora a lot while I am writing, and it was while I was working on Mallville that I first heard them. The station I was listening to had artists like Jonathan Coulton, Bareknaked Ladies, Bowling for Soup, and Weezer as its basis, and as I was busily typing away I suddenly realized that the song playing was about the living dead; it was “Zombie Me”.

After hearing a couple more of their songs, “Michael (Jump In)” and I believe “The Grand Experiment” , I rushed out to Dimple Records and bought their album (new, not used). Aside from having a good sound, the lyrics of the songs appeal to my inner geek (as well as my outer geek) with references to everything from “The Smurfs” to “Ghistbusters 2” to “Peanuts” sprinkled throughout them.

Sadly there is no video for “Zombie Me”, but the video for “Sweep the Leg” is a truly awesome, if long, vid which brings me back to the Michael Jackson style of music video production. Check out the appearance by Mr. Belding from “Saved by the Bell” in the beginning

Apocalyptica: 7th Symphony (2010)

I know, I've already babbled about them a couple of days ago, but that was about their sixth album, which is good, but it's no “7th Symphony”. I do not have all of their albums, but of what I do have, this one is my favourite. From the awesome rock of “End of Me” (featuring Gavin Rossdale of Bush fame) and “Not Strong Enough” (featuring Brent Smith) to the instrumental piece “The Shadow of Venus” (which appears on the deluxe version) which is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard, this album is fantastic from start to finish. Even the song “Bring Them to Light”, which is exactly the sort of screamy heavy metal that I don't like has grown on me.

I first discovered this group while listening to a political podcast that was using some of the tracks from “Plays Metallica by Four Cellos” and “Inquisition Symphony” as transitional music between segments. Hearing Metallica's “Nothing Else Matters” played beautifully on the cello got my attention to the point that I had to go to that show's web site and see who this group was.

I love music done in unusual styles, at that point I had already had an album of Metallica music done on classical piano (Scott D. Davis' “Pianotarium”), and could not pass up a chance to get some more Metallica done in the wrong style, so when I happened to see “Inquisition Symphony” while looking for something to use a coupon on at Borders, I snatched it up.

If you listen to their early work, where there is just the cellos and almost all the songs are covers, and then compare it to their last two albums where it is all original music and they have added a drummer and vocals, you can really hear how this group has matured from simply making metal beautiful to making it epically so.

The video I've chosen to provide as a demonstration is “Broken Pieces” which features Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf.

Flyleaf: Memento Mori (2009)

“Memento Mori” is Flyleaf's second album, and while the band's Christian background shows A LOT more strongly on this album (on the first album, someone who knew nothing about the group could easily not realize that this is Christian Music), they do not consider themselves a Christian group. I'm not sure why they feel the need to distance themselves from their faith (especially since the we're-not-a-Christian-group argument seems a little harder to defend given the lyrics on this album), but I don't really care because I love their sound.

I find listening to this album to be very uplifting, now whether that's due to the spirituality behind the lyrics or now, I cannot really say. I really like the tracks “In the Dark”, “Beautiful Bride”, and “Swept Away”, but my absolute favourite on the album is “Arise”.

“Arise” is the song I was heard in my head when thinking about how to end “Mallville”, and I consider it to be a sort of unofficial closing theme to the story. It is probably no surprise that this is my favourite of all of Flyleaf's songs, only possibly edged out by the awesome remix of it by Ben Moody on the “Remember to Live” EP that came out last year.

I discovered Flyleaf because Dimple Records was pushing their original EP at the register back when it came out in 2007. The clerk pushed it as being similar to Evanescence, saying that “she screams while she sings”. The idea of screamy singing did not really appeal to me, but it was also only two bucks, and I'm always happy to try something new, especially if it's cheap. I loved all of the songs on the EP, and bought the original full album twice (the second time because it was re-released with acoustic versions of some of the songs).

There is no video for “Arise”, or In the Dark”, or “Swept Away”, and the video for “Beautiful Bride”, like most of their Memento Mori videos is extremely WTF-y, so I have chosen the video for “Again”. The video is still WTF-y, but not to the point that it may distract you from the music like some of the others might.

So there you have it; the three albums I would most recommend you give a chance. Are they my all time favourites? Would I still choose these three albums five years from now? Ten? Not necessarily. I could never narrow down my CD collection to a mere 3 that are the best; heck, these three weren't even easy picks (with the exception of “7th Symphony”). Even once decided on picking a No More Kings album, it took a lot of thought to not choose “And The Flying Boombox”, and for a while there the third album was going to be the “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” soundtrack (which is every bit as awesome as the film... for the most part)

This tends to guarantee that I get no feedback, but I”m going to ask anyway. What would your three be?

Alright, that's enough babbling for now. Until next time, remember that the first cut is not always the deepest; in fact it's usually shallow and hesitant since it takes a few stabs to really build up your confidence in what you are doing.

No, that's just creepy, and way too long.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I have been a fan of zombies since I first saw the music video for Michael Jackson's “Thriller” as a child. I remember that we watched it, along with the making of it, in school; it was probably in first grade. From that point on I have always loved the living dead as my favourite movie monsters.

Zombie movies tended to be a little hard to find over the years. Of course there was the Romero series of films, and the Return of the Living Dead” series (which are inferior to Romero's films, in my opinion), and that was pretty much it for a long time unless you wanted something really odd or schlocky. Then suddenly zombies exploded in popularity. “The Walking Dead”, “Zombie Survival Guide”,“World War Z”, “28 Days Later”, a sort-of remake of “Dawn of the Dead” (which is fairly meh in my book), “Left 4 Dead”, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, etc. I was in absolute zed heaven.

The resurgence of zombies along with inspiration from a number of podcasts finally got me to write a book (well, it turned out to be two books) that I had been tossing around in my head for years: “Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse”. I had finally achieved a long time goal, and had more zombie fiction available to me than I can actually read/watch/play. Of course it also brought out a bunch of bandwagon-jumping fans, or zombie-come-latelys.

One thing I would like to make perfectly clear about Mallville. I did not write it because zombies were becoming popular again; I had the original idea for it back in 2004 or 2005, and started writing and posting it to challenge myself to get back into writing. I didn't realize how popular zombies were becoming again until I was already posting it. So while it may look like I am one of the zombie-come-latelys, I do not consider myself such.

Of course when something gets too popular, there naturally has to be a backlash against it. We've seen this recently with vampires thanks largely to the “Twilight” series, but, and this is just my opinion, sparkly vampires deserve it both for being pretty lame and for the rabid fangirls that think it's romantic for a man to break into their bedroom and spy on them while they sleep. I don't think zombies deserve this kind of backlash.

Zombies seem to be attacked based either on their sheer popularity, or based on the fact that the Internet treats them as if they were a meme, and has run them into the ground a bit. I have been disheartened to see people that I respect expressing their dislike of both the living dead genre, and fans of it; in particular fans who only jumped onto the zombie bandwagon. I understand why some people are getting burnt out on the genre: once I saw both a Lake Wobegon zombie story and one that takes place at a Star Trek convention I knew things were going a bit far. Of course Marvel Comics did not help things any by not stopping “Marvel Zombies” after the “Army of Darkness” crossover, and instead running the series into the fragging ground.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with people disliking zombie fiction; everyone has their own likes and dislikes. What I do have a problem with is acting like all fans of zombie fiction are teenage basement-dwellers who glom onto anything that is popular on certain Internet message boards. I have liked zeds since the 80's, and when they finally burn out this time around, and all of the zombie-come-latelys have moved on to the next meme, I will still be here; a fan of the living dead.

Hopefully by the time zombies roll around to the top of pop culture next time around, I'll have the Mallville books completely re-written and ready to pitch to someone looking to cash in on the craze. It shouldn't be too hard when polished up; hell, the first draft version that I posted online is already better than “Twilight”.

Okay, that's enough babbling for today. Until next time, watch the shadows.

Hmm, better, but still not quite right.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Worlds Collide

So my little rambling yesterday about the five minutes I spent watching some televangelist got something that most of my posts never get: confirmation that someone is actually reading them. This confirmation was in the form of a comment from someone named “Kat”. Now I'm not sure if this is the Kat that I know in real life or not, but either way, “Hello, Kat!” **waves**. Of course the thing that really surprises me about getting a comment on a post like that is that I never publicized its being posted; not on my Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr, so unless Kat follows my blog normally, she must have just stumbled onto it, which is interesting.

So I've decided to try and liven things up around here by posting something other than movie reviews and the very rare Early Morning Amusement video. Sure, I'll likely grow bored of this when I finish my Typewriter Challenge story (which is going nicely) and start on something new or go back to the Mallville re-write, but for now, lets ramble a bit.

I picked up a new Apocalyptica album over the weekend, and by new I mean new to me, not a new release. The album I got was “Worlds Collide”,which came out back in 2007. I've listened to it a couple of times, while nothing has instantly grabbed me like some of the songs on “7th Symphony” did there are a couple that are growing on me.

The first is “I Don't Care” featuring Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace:

And the other is “I'm Not Jesus” featuring Corey Taylor from Slipknot:

I would like to point out here that I am not a fan Slipknot or Three Days Grace; in fact my metal tastes generally begin and end with Megadeth and Metallica from my teenage years, but Apocalyptica manage to so perfectly make heavy metal beautiful in a way that even surpasses my love of Scott D. Davis' classical piano renditions of Metallica songs.

If you're not familiar with what Apocalyptica is, well the videos above are probably a bit of a hint, but let me explain a bit more. They originally started out as four graduates of the Sibelius Academy in Finland (this is a big deal, this is one of the biggest music schools in Europe, and it is over one hundred years old) who discovered that you could play Metallica songs on the cello, and make them sound awesome. Indeed their first album, “Plays Metallica by Four Cellos” is nothing but covers of Metallica songs. They have gone on since then to add a drummer and vocal artists to turn what could have been a mere novelty group in a seriously beautiful hard rock experience.

I suppose I should point out that I love cover songs done in different styles, which is what attracted me to Apocalyptica in the first place, but their newer, original music is really some of the best rock I have ever heard; especially songs like “Broken Pieces” which features Lacey Mosely from one of my other favourite bands: “Flyleaf”.

Alright, that's enough rambling for today, but seriously, if you have never heard of Apocalyptica, give those videos up there a watch (or more importantly, a listen), and see what you think, and until the next time I get the urge to ramble....

I need a signature line. Mur Lafferty has “Be mighty”, Steve Eley had “Have fun”, I need something.

Keep and eye out for zombies...?

No, I don't think so.

Monday, April 11, 2011

False Wonders

I regularly go to sleep with the television on, and one of the neatest things about owning a DVR is that you never know what will be on the screen when you wake up. When I went to sleep Saturday night, the TV was on Cartoon Network, I wake up later on, and it's “Doctor Who” on BBCA. I go back to sleep, and when I wake up, it's switched over to some televangelist, so I sit and listen to what he has to say for a minute.

The TV preacher is talking about the second coming (I believe he was referring to Thessalonians, if you're interested), and about how the Anti-Christ (or “The Lawless One”, which is mostly what the speaker called him) might try to trick us into believing that he was the second coming of Christ with false wonders and counterfeit miracles.

What I took from this was that we should look at anyone claiming to be the son of God with a skeptical eye, which is certainly good advice to take with anyone who claims to speak for God, but it raises certain problems for me. The main problem is that how am I supposed to know the real messiah from the the fake one? If the fake messiah can perform the same fantastic miracles as the real one, and they both claim to be the son of God, how do I know one from the other? I don't recall the preacher having an answer for that, not before I got up to go to the bathroom anyway.

Of course my mind can't stop there, I went into conspiracy theory mode, and looked at the idea harder. If the devil can trick us into believing in a fake messiah, could he not also trick us into doubting the real one? If you're playing a long con that literally lasts for two or three millennium wouldn't it be easier to just create the idea of a fake messiah than to actually bother creating a fake one? I mean, how hard would it be for Satan to get the idea of a fake Christ inserted into the bible as it is edits, interpreted, translated, re-edited, re-translated, etc of the ages?

I've always been a believer that it is both easier and more effective to make your opponent think you've done/will do something horrible to them than it is to actually do that thing; for instance, it is much easier to make someone think that you poured sugar in their gas tank by leaving an empty bag of sugar on the ground next to their car along with some spilled sugar than it is to actually try and funnel sugar into the tank. Your victim's reaction will be the same, and if you get caught you at least won't have to worry about having to actually fix anything.

By the above argument, wouldn't it just be easier to make the mortals doubt the real messiah than it would be to make your own? If you can just discredit your opponent before they ever make an appearance, wouldn't that work just as well? Especially now when a loud (if not necessarily large) portion of Christians have a fairly skewed idea of what Jesus would want people to do? I don't know what you believe, but I think some people expect him to show up supporting tax cuts for the rich, tax hikes for the poor, and using his right to bear arms (because he would have to be American, doncha know) to mow down homosexuals and women's healthy clinic employees. I somehow don't see Jesus doing that myself.

Is it bad that my mind works this way?

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Once upon a time there was a little girl named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan: The Lovely Bones). Hanna lived in a snowy forest with her father, Erik (Eric Bana: Star Trek, The Time Traveler's Wife), who has done his best to teach her everything she needs to know to be able to survive, but children grow up, and there is only so much a child can learn from her father before she wants to learn more.

Knowing that he will eventually need to let Hanna experience the rest of the world, Erik retrieves a box he has hidden for many years, and presents it to Hanna. He tells her that if she flips the switch on the box everything will change and she can leave, but that an evil witch named Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett: The Lord of the Rings) will come for her, and she will not stop until one of them is dead.

Hanna feels she is ready though, so she flips the switch. Erik leaves her to deal with the witch's coming minions, reminding her where they are to meet, and that she must always “adapt or die”. Hanna soon discovers that the evil witch is more dangerous than she realized, that she has the big bad wolf on her side in the form of a man called Lewis (John MacMillan), and that defeating her will not be easy.

“Hanna” is director Joe Wright's fairy tale for the modern age, and while the wicked witch is actually an intelligence operative, and the big bad wolf is really just a perfectly normal human assassin, the tropes and symbolism of many of the Grimm's Fairy Tales play large roles in the movie as we follow the titular character's journey across Europe to meet up with her father. You have the little girl lost, out of her element, and occasionally overwhelmed by the strange reality that no amount of survival training could have prepared her for.. You have her interacting with a villain who does not appear immediately villainous (and who has a fixation with her teeth that went kind of over my head). Finally, you have that fairy tale standard moral of what happens to children who don't listen to their parents.

This is not nearly as action-y as the trailers would have you believe, but what action there is is brutal and well choreographed. Instead of a hundred minutes of Hanna cutting a bloody Kill Bill-esque swath through her enemies, what you have is a fairly intense, and frequently humourous film with a fair bit of heart as well. There is a nice balance between humour and drama in the film that keeps it entertaining, and prevents it from ever becoming too cold or stark.

A lot of the things that I liked about Wright's last directorial outing, "The Soloist” are present again. This is a movie to be experienced more than just seen. While it does not have anywhere near the warmth of that movie, the titular character has a lot of the same sense of wonder as Nathaniel Ayers, when she's not busy killing her enemies anyway.

The only problem with this film is that it does slow down a bit at parts, but usually for a good reason. Some of Marissa's scenes in particular can drag on a bit, but they serve the purpose of developing her character. In a lot of bloody-rampage action films the villains are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Alternately, some films spend so much time developing the antagonist that you actually start to feel sorry for them. That's not the case here; there's enough time spent on Marissa to let you know that she is her own person with her own drives and neurosis, but it's all kept vague to keep the focus on the fact that she is also a complete monster.

It's not a cheerful movie ( but how many un-Disneyfied fairy tales are?), but it is humourous and exciting, and I would even say a little bit beautiful. I found myself rooting for Hanna as she tried to come to terms with the fact that there is more to living in the real world than just being able to kill anyone who threatens you, being able to speak a dozen languages, and knowing how many muscles it takes to kiss. Ronan does a great job flipping back and forth between the rather bland and curious Hanna and the cold, calculating killer that will do anything to survive.

If you want a tense, exciting, but still funny movie that doesn't weigh itself down too much with unnecessary details this weekend, then I can't help but recommend “Hanna”. From the acting, to the visual presentation, to the great soundtrack, this is a fantastic movie. In the near future we will probably end up with an over-saturation of teenage girl assassin films, but I think that this will always stand out as one of the better ones.

“Hanna” is in theaters now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WonderCon '11

Every year I sit home and watch as people tweet/Facebook update/podcast about going to all of these awesome conventions all around the country: San Diego Comic-Con, Emerald City Comic-Con, PAX, E3, DragonCon, etc, etc. The list goes on and on, meanwhile the bet I go to is Sac-Con and SacAnime.

Now don't get me wrong, I like going to these conventions, I've been able to meet, and get autographs from Crispin Freeman (“Hellsing”, “GITS:SAC”), Spike Spencer (Evangelion), and Benjamin Roman (“I Luv Halloween”), and those were really great, but those are usually held in a space about the size of a school gym. It's just not the same, you know?

So this year I decided to go for it. San Francisco's only a couple of hours from here, so why not give WonderCon a try? For those who do not know, WonderCon is held in San Francisco's Moscone Center, and is put on by the same people that run Comic-Con San Diego. The folks at Sac-Con put a lot of work into the local conventions, but it's a bit like comparing a child's lemonade stand to Tropicana.

We decided to go too late to get the first day of the show off, so we just got tickets for Saturday. On Saturday morning I donned my best Punisher shirt, grabbed my goggles, packed some suitably white trash snacks, and drove down to San Francisco for a day where I could wear a pair of goggles while walking around and not feel at all out of place.

Mind you, in San Francisco I could probably walk around with my goggles on anytime, and still not look out of place.

Even at the street you could tell that the empire was not taking any chances; security was everywhere:

Luckily we had pre-bought our tickets, so we were able to skip the ticket queue (which wasn't really all that bad, given that we arrived just as the convention was opening for the day), but just going to get our badges it was evident that this show was just as big as I had expected it to be.

And this is just the registration area.

So we go and turn our tickets in, are issued our badges and Showtime “The Borgias” lanyards, and in we go.

WonderCon, I have arrived!

If you've never been to this size convention before, and as I've stated, I hadn't, then it is pretty overwhelming at first sight. Where do you go first? The Capcom display? Nintendo? Marvel Comics? Nope. I headed straight for artist alley (with a few minor detours on the way, one of which finally netted me a Doctor Who Ironsides Dalek figure). Why would I go there? Because it was finally a chance to meet a couple of the podcasters I've been listening to for going-on four years now:

Dave Dwonch and Super Ugly of The Geek Savants! This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was actually a bit of a deciding factor for going to WonderCon to begin with. I picked up a signed copy of Super Ugly's colouring book, and Dave Dwonch's graphic novel, “Back in the Day”. Aside from being really nice guys, they also gave me a print of their Episode 200 poster (which is an awesome Star Wars parody), and a pair of prints featuring artwork from other episodes. I need to move into a bigger place just to give me more wall space.

I also got to meet Sergio Aragones. If you don't know who that is, then shame on you. I'm not going to tell you, go Google it. I did get a signed copy of the Groo 25th anniversary book though.

I did get to see Robert Kirkman, but you had to have tickets to get him to sign anything, so I didn't bother. With only one day to see everything, I didn't want to spend a lot of time waiting in lines for things. If we go next year we may go for multiple days so that we can spend time waiting in line for some panels.

I may not have gotten a Kirkman signature, but I did get a copy of “Darkwing Duck: The Duck Knight Returns” signed by artist James Silvani (and he even did a little DW doodle on a bookmark to go with it), and a bunch of free stuff, including a cute children's book, the name of which escapes me, a short story collection edited by Mike Resnick, and Osaka got a promo copy of a novel about The Black Friars of Berkeley.

There were the usual assortment of actors who are, shall we say, past their prime, but the only one I feel I needed to take a picture of was:

Lou Ferrigno. That's right, The Incredible Hulk himself! Why did I not get a picture with him, you ask? Because he wanted forty bucks for a polaroid, that's why. I know he needs the money, but still...

If you're wondering what is wrong with his face in the picture, he was chewing.

Of course no convention is complete without cosplayers (I really need to come up with a costume myself). There were lots of great costumes that I did not get pictures of, like the Doctor Girlfriend and the group of Monarch's Henchman, or the kid dressed as an Angry Bird, or any of the Doctors roaming about (saw a few Tennants, a couple of Smiths, one with Amy Pond, and even one Baker), or the woman who I am pretty sure was a Fallout ghoul in a pink dress, but I did get pictures of these guys:

And this guy:


Okay, so that's not really a guy exactly.

And there were some zombie pirates on hand, but never fear:

The Ghostbusters were on hand to deal with them.

Things got a little weird with this one, not because of anything the guard did, but because after Osaka took my picture with him, someone else wanted to wait to get a picture of me with him as well. My ego would like to think that someone recognized me, but I know that that is silly. If you happen to see this picture, but shot from a different angle, somewhere else on line, please send me a link.

Cosplaying takes a certain amount of courage (especially if you are not a masked character), and some people have a clear surplus of courage:

I would like to point out that I saw a total of four Princess Leias while at WonderCon; one Episode IV, and three Slave Leias. You know, some of us are built to cosplay Slave Leia, and some of us are born the cosplay Klingons. I am in the latter camp, which is a large part of why I've not built myself a costume. I can't think of any fat characters I want to play as, and I just can't see wandering around as a fat Doctor (although if I can ever find an Azumanga Daioh Father Hat, I am totally going to cosplay as Kimura-Sensei).

One large problem with cosplay is that the costumes are frequently delicate, which means they are hard to clean without damaging them. They are also frequently warm (why do so many characters insist on wearing heavy coats and full face masks?). Those two things combine to make the even some of the best costumes hard to be around due to their fragrance. We had an issue while splitting an eight dollar personal size pizza with a girl dressed as Death from “Sandman”, although it may have actually been her non-costumed friend now that I think back on it.

Aside from everything else that I got to see, I also ran into Beka, an old co-worker of mine and Osaka's from the toy store days, but we didn't get a lot of time to speak as she was just plunging herself into the nerdgasm that was WonderCon. I hope that I am in a position to be able to go again next year, but we will definitely need to go multiple days; there's just too much to do in a single day.

So until next year, farewell WonderCon!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The All-Pro Pre-Order

Podcaster, and Future Dark Overlord Scott Sigler's next novel, "The All-Pro", can now be pre-ordered from

"The All-Pro" is the third in Sigler's Galactic Football League series, and if you pre-order it you get a signed and numbered copy of this book's limited first edition run, and in case you missed out on them before, there are still copies of the first two novels "The Rookie" and "The Starter" available for order as well, so you won't be lost when you begin to read the third volume.

The GFL series are the perfect novels for the science-fiction or football geek, and has been compared to both "Star Wars" and "The Godfather".

It's really a good idea to get your orders in, folks, because when the Future Dark Overlord ascends, a signed copy of his books might be a handy thing to have when begging for your life and/or freedom.

I just pre-ordered my personalized copy of "The All-Pro", now it's your turn.

EDIT: Oh yeah, I forgot! Enter the coupon code "Hutch" at the order screen for a discount, because every dollar helps right now, right?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Music Never Stopped

Music is a powerful thing. The right song can make you feel happy, sad, pumped, or relaxed, but is there more to it than that?What effects can music actually have on the brain? What connections does it form to our memories? This is the question explored in Jim Kohlberg's directorial debut, “The Music Never Stopped”.

Set in the 1980's, the film opens with a phone call. To Helen (Cara Seymour: “The Notorious Bettie Page”) and Henry Sawyer (J.K. Simmons: “Oz” “Spider-Man”); their son, Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci), whom they have not seen in a very long time, is in the hospital. It turns out that Gabriel has a large brain tumor, and while it can be removed safely, it has caused a significant amount of permanent damage to his brain.

Gabriel's Doctor (Scott Adsit: “30 Rock”) explains to the Sawyers that Gabriel may never be himself again, and that, amongst the other damaged parts of his brain, he has lost the part that allows him to remember new information. In fact, for the most part, Gabriel is in a near vegetative state most of the time. Then one night when he shocks the hell out of all the nurses by starting to play his old trumpet after listening to a song on the radio.

Helen and Henry are excited by this, but the doctor assures them that it doesn't mean anything. Henry is still curious though, and while doing research on brain injuries he comes across an article by therapist Dianne Daley (Julia Ormond: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) about a connection between music and the brain.

Daley is interested in Gabriel's case, and starts playing music for him; first what he was playing on the trumpet, and then songs that Henry played for him as a child. There's a definite reaction, but it doesn't bring him back like whatever he heard on the radio did. One night, quite by accident, Daley realizes what the problem is. The music that stirs him is not the music his father exposed him to as a child, but the music he loved in his teenage years. Unfortunately it is that very music that led to the split between Gabriel and his father in the first place, or at least that's how Henry sees it.

“The Music Never Stopped” is based on the essay “The Last Hippie” by Dr. Oliver Sacks. If that name sparks any familiarity with you at all, it is possibly because his writing was also the basis of 1990's Oscar nominated “Awakenings”. The two films share a similar subject matter, a sense of bittersweet hope, and a good dose of dark humour, but are otherwise both quite different. “Awakenings” feels like it has a strong sense of forward motion throughout, as where this movie just flows in whatever direction the music happens to take it.

Ultimately it's the music that is the heart and soul of this film, from the the music Gabriel's father exposed him to as a child, like Peggy Lee and Count Basie, to the music he came to love in his teenage years, like The Beatles, Steppenwolf, and especially The Grateful Dead. Music is as much of a character in this film as any of the actors, and it is easily what moves the rather meandering tale forward. The film's soundtrack triggers flashbacks to explain how Gabriel came to love music to begin with, how he split off from his parents, and ultimately it becomes Henry's only hope of ever truly re-connecting with his injured son.

I said that the movie meanders, and it does. It's never dull, but at times it does seem aimless as it paints a picture of Gabriel's life before he left home and after he returns. It doesn't help that there are characters like Celia (Mia Masestro: “Alias”), a serving girl at the hospital cafeteria, and Tamara (Tammy Blanchard: “Guiding Light”), Gabriel's high school girlfriend, who seem like they should be really important characters, but ultimately have little or no real effect on the story. It's almost as if the screenwriters didn't know where they wanted the story to actually end until about two thirds of the way through which creates something which is not exactly a shaggy dog story, but has subplots which could easily be described as such.

The cast is an interesting choice. For me, this is the first time seeing J.K. Simmons in a real leading role, and he carries it off well; maybe after this I will be able to look at him and not immediately think of him as Vern Schillinger (probably not though). Ormond and Seymour bring their characters to life well, and it was very interesting to see Scott Adsit in a serious role, but it's the choice Lou Taylor Pucci as Gabriel that is most interesting.

Pucci plays Gabriel as both a teenager and an adult, and while he easily looks the part of a high school senior, making him look like someone who should be in the latter half of their thirties is a little more difficult (Pucci himself is still in his mid-twenties). In order to try and create a big difference in appearance between his teen self and his adult self, they have him in this rather ridiculous looking beard; I don't know if it was fake or not, but it sure looked fake. Between his youthful physical appearance, and the fact that due to his injury he still acts like a teenager, I had to repeatedly remind myself how old he is supposed to be. His performance as Gabriel feels spot on, but perhaps they could have put the beginnings of some gray into his hair to make him look like someone within spitting distance of their 40's.

While this is not necessarily one of those movies you should rush out and see right away, it is certainly one that you should see at some point in your life. It's well acted, has a really strong soundtrack, and manages to be funny and uplifting at the same time as being sad. It will try to make you cry, but it will try to make you laugh a lot more. So why not go see something with a little actual value? At the very least when someone asks what movies you've seen lately, you'll be able to come up with a better answer than “Hall Pass”.

“The Music Never Stopped” is in limited release now.

Friday, March 18, 2011


You've heard it said before that the average human only uses about twenty percent of his brain's total potential. If you believe this, then that means even the smartest amongst us could be so much more if only we could figure out how to access the rest of our brainpower. Now what if someone offered you a pill that could make you the best you that you could possibly be? What if you could exceed the current boundaries of your mental capacity? What if you could become “Limitless”?

“Limitless” is the new film from director Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) starring Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”) as Eddie Morra, a writer struggling with a combination of writer's block and his natural tendency for self-sabotage. Eddie is not having a good time of things, his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish: “Sucker Punch”), has finally grown tired of his crap and dumped him, he's behind on the rent, and he has a deadline rushing towards him without a single word written.

In the depths of his despair he meets up with his ex-wife's brother, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth: “CSI: Miami”), who at first mistakes him for a homeless man. After listening to a brief, but frank, description of Eddie's situation, Vernon offers him a small, transparent pill that he promises will turn things around for him. Deciding that things could hardly get worse, Eddie takes the pill.

Within moments, Eddie realizes that he can access the memories of anything he's ever seen; he can learn languages in hours, he can motivate himself to stop being a complete slob, he can even get past his writer's block and finish his novel with speed that would make Stephen King jealous (it certainly makes me jealous). It basically turns him into a combination of Chuck Bartowski and Shawn Spencer, but without the silliness that you might expect from either. Eddie is amazed at what he can do when he doesn't get in his way.

As with all drugs, there are drawbacks. The drug wears off in less than a day, returning Eddie to his slobby, stupid self. It turns out that intelligence is addictive, and he wants more. Unfortunately the side effects can be much worse than just becoming stupid again. Before he knows it, Eddie is trying to juggle finding a steady supply of the drug, dealing with a Russian loan shark (Andrew Howard: “Revolver”), working with a business mogul (Robert De Niro), and figuring out what to do about the creepy guy who is suddenly following him everywhere he goes.

The visual style of “Limitless” is fantastic. The movie uses some interesting visual effects when Eddie gets into his writing groove, and when he starts to experience some of the drug's side effects, but the best effects for me were simply what happened whenever Eddie would take the pill. As the pill kicks in the world around him visibly brightens and the colour grown warm to help the audience see the clarity with which he now sees the world.

De Niro's role in the film, though smaller than the trailers would have you believe (not that you should ever trust trailers anyway), is still a good example of him playing exactly the sort of pompous character he is good at; even when he is smiling and laughing, it's obvious that you are never more than one stupid move away from being on his excrement list. Cooper and De Niro have a great on-screen chemistry as they play back and forth with Carl Van Loon's thin veneer of joviality over ruthless greed and Morra's slick, but naive, self-confidence. It is a lot of fun to see them on the screen together.

This is an easy movie to enjoy, but there are some pretty big issues with it. First of all, for someone who maybe the smartest man on Earth, Morra misjudges or overlooks a lot of things that I, with my normal dumb brain, saw almost immediately. Now maybe he's just not very genre savvy, but some of the things he screws up on seem more like plot-hole issues than something his character would really not think of. The other thing, and this may not really be an issue, is that many, but not all, of the film's twists are easy to predict if you are paying attention. While the movie is a lot more subtle about foreshadowing than, say, “Red Riding Hood” was, it still was a little annoying to me to be able to spot these things before the super-genius did. That said, the overall movie is more than enjoyable enough for me to forgive it its flaws.

“Limitless” is a fun, stylish, well done film with a strong cast, a decent soundtrack, and what is probably the best use of a small child as a weapon that you will ever see. It's not likely to go down as a modern classic, but it is a very enjoyable drama with a strong sense of humour, and an interesting science fiction concept. If you're heading out to the theaters this weekend and you want to see something that will appeal to your higher brain functions, then I strongly suggest you check out this film.

“Limitless” is in theaters now.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Battle Los Angeles

Why are Americans so fascinated by the idea of our nation being invaded? Whether it's by our on-world enemy du jour or by aliens from another planet we seem to enjoy seeing our home getting destroyed by foreign aggressors. We seem to enjoy it so much that even if the rest of the world is attacked as well, all we focus the movie on is what is happening in the U.S.. That is the case in the new science fiction war movie “Battle Los Angeles”.

Staff Sergeant Michael Nance (Aaron Eckhart: “The Dark Night”, “Thank You for Smoking”) has served his time in the Marines and is ready to get out. Unfortunately for him, the universe has other plans. Meteorites are falling to Earth off the coast of major cities all over the planet, and when the military is mobilized to help in evacuating the Southern California coastline, he finds himself attached to a squad headed up by a young lieutenant who is fresh out of officer school.

Before the Marines even hit the streets, the situation changes drastically. As suspected, the meteorites were not natural at all; this is confirmed when the television news shows footage of vaguely humanoid figures marching up out of the surf and, by way of greeting humanity for the first time, open fire on the crowd. There's no warning, no deception, no attempts at diplomacy or requests for surrender, they just start attacking.

Where most alien invasion movies (“Independence Day” and “Mars Attacks” come to mind) generally start out showing you different characters in different places dealing with the attacks, “Battle Los Angeles” keeps its scope much smaller. The camera stays firmly on Nance and his squad as they are sent to rescue civilians caught in the combat area. Your knowledge of what is happening in the rest of the world is limited to that of the characters, which is to say whatever they happen to see on televisions as they make their way through the war-torn city.

This sense of isolation works really well for the film, managing to give it a sense of reality that most alien invasion flicks could never achieve. In fact, this movie felt more to me like “Blackhawk Down” or and the last half of “Full Metal Jacket” than it did “Independence Day”, which is to say it feels like a straight war movie where the enemies just happen to be space aliens instead of humans. The film takes the subject matter just as seriously and respectfully as if it were “Saving Private Ryan”.

There are no one-liner spewing ubermen in this film; no Wil Smiths dragging an alien around without any cover from enemy fire while commenting wittily about the invader's odor. This isn't to say that there are no humourous lines to be found here, just that they are only used where they seem natural for combat banter. No one runs around like they are bulletproof, or at least no one runs around that way for long. The characters are well aware of their mortality and the disadvantage they are at with their enemies, and in one of the few instances of Hollywood heroics that the character actually survives, he comes away not saying something witty, but shaking in absolute terror.

In order to help create the sense of urgency and isolation, the entire film appears to have been shot in a pseudo-documentary style using handheld cameras. This is the only problem I had with the film, and the camera jerks around so much that it made me nauseous (I am not exaggerating, I actually felt sick to my stomach), and I am not one to suffer from motion sickness. If you are someone who has problems with this, then try to sit as far back as possible, and perhaps see if one of the theaters near you is playing it on one of their smaller screens (I saw it on a nearly floor to ceiling screen, and sat far too close to it). This doesn't make me dislike the film, but it can be a major issue for some viewers.

With fantastic alien designs, a gritty realistic style, believable characters, and almost non-stop action, it is not at all difficult for me to tell you to go see this film. This is not your average invader-from-the stars type movie, this is a hardcore war movie... with aliens. Just remember to take your Dramamine.

“Battle Los Angeles” is in theaters now.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Red Riding Hood

It seems that Hollywood is no longer content with just crapping on my generation's childhood with new takes on “The Smurfs”, “Transformers”, and “G.I. Joe”, and have now moved on to going after the childhoods of many generations with films like “Beastly”, “Snow White”, and this movie, “Red Riding Hood”. These are not your normal sugar-coated, Disneyfied re-tellings though; these are dark, gritty, sexy, but still only PG-13 takes aimed squarely at the Twilighters out there.

Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”), directs this version of the classic tale of the little girl who finds herself running afoul of the big, bad wolf on her way to grandmother's house, only this girl isn't so little, it's living anime character, Amanda Seyfried (“Jennifer's Body”). Seyfried plays Valerie, daughter of a woodcutter, Cesaire (Billy Burke: “Twilight”, “Drive Angry 3D”) and Suzette (Virginia Madsen: “The Haunting in Conneticut”). Valerie lives an angsty medieval life; she is in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), a young woodcutter who has been her friend since childhood, but she has been promised the Henry (Max Irons), a kind and talented young blacksmith who would much more easily give her the lifestyle her mother wants her to have. Oh whatever is she to do?

Valerie's boy troubles are only slightly overshadowed by the fact that her village (located somewhere in the kingdom of Southern California if the accents are any indication) is terrorized every full moon by a werewolf. For many years this has not been a problem; the townspeople merely leave some livestock out as a sacrifice and hide themselves away. This changes when the wolf claims the life of one of the townspeople.

Suddenly the town is in a panic, and while Father Auguste (Lukas Haas: “Inception”) sends for a famous witch-hunter and wolf-slayer, many of the town's men go out to hunt the werewolf, and kill it once and for all. They think their efforts are successful, but when the witch-smeller, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman: “The Book of Eli”) arrives, he warns them that what they killed was not the werewolf at all. Fear not,though, because he and his multicultural private army will sniff out the true wolf and slay it.

If you get a “Twilight”-y kind of feel from this movie's trailers, there's a good reason for it. Not only did Hardwicke direct the first film in that series, and Billy Burke act in it, but many other characters feel directly lifted from it too. Valerie is very much an expy for Bella Swan, but without the fear of aging. Peter is a combination of Edward and Jacob, but without all the creepy stalker behaviour and glitter, and Henry feels an awful lot like Mike Newton. In some ways this movie almost feels like a sort of “Twilight” fan-fic.

I mentioned before that the medieval townsfolk all talk like they are from Los Angeles, and while this may have been a wise directorial decision (All of them trying to fake any type of European accent would likely have been a mess), it makes the one character who does have a strong accent stand out even more. Gary Oldman's portrayal of Solomon is a perfect example of why sometimes not trying is better than trying too hard. At first he sounds like he is supposed to be German, but from there it just goes to crap as his accent wanders all over the place. This is not a slight on his portrayal, as his character was one of the best in the film, but an entire film of people doing this would have been incredibly annoying.

The film was pretty much what I expected it to be for about the first two thirds. Crazed overacting and lip-biting angst broken up by some fairly decent action sequences (featuring fairly dodgy special effects) while Valerie tries to not only choose which man she should go with, but tries to figure out who the wolf is. The film tries to keep you guessing about these two things as well.

There is no attempt to subtly hint at who you should suspect for wolfhood either. The movie bludgeons you over the head with red herring after red herring trying to make you suspect different people. Is it Grandma? Peter? Prudence? Henry? I will say, and this is one of the major things that keeps this movie from being completely awful, I did not correctly guess who the wolf was. My wife says she suspected the correct person, so I may just be dense, but it is the thing I found most satisfying about the film.

I'm sure you're wondering how one goes about stretching a story that most people tell in fifteen minutes into a one hundred minute movie? The answer is to spend the first hour completely ignoring that story. The first hour of the film is all about Valerie and her two suitors with some wolf attacks and the occasional steamy, but still PG-13, kissing scene thrown in for flavour. It's only in about the last twenty minutes of the film that they manage to cram in something like the traditional story of “Little Red Riding Hood”, complete with the “What big eyes you have” scene (and Amanda Seyfried commenting on the largeness of anyone's eyes was enough to make me laugh). It feels a little rushed after the slow pace of the first three quarters of the movie, but the ending is more satisfying than I was expecting.

I know it sounds like I liked parts of this movie, and I did in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way, but that doesn't mean I would recommend it to anyone. This is a movie for hardcore Twilighters only, and even then only for the ones that liked the movies. The acting ranges from wooden to narmy, and while the action sequences are well choreographed (even if the effects look a little dated) there simply are not enough of them to save the movie from itself. The only possible reason to see this in a theater, assuming you're not one of the aforementioned hardcore Twilighters, is for the fun of trying to guess who the wolf is, but you know what? You can do that for a lot less at home when it comes out on DVD.

“Red Riding Hood” wanders out of the forest and into theaters March 11th.